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Feature Stories

NEWS | Jan. 16, 2017

New munitions replace cluster bomb rounds that pose danger to civilians

By Sgt. Brandon Hubbard U.S. Army Central

Officials hope a new artillery warhead that will replace a cluster-bomb round could help eliminate unwanted casualties in the future.

The M30A1 guided multiple launch rocket system alternate warhead recently debuted during a test fire exercise in Kuwait. The warhead is retiring an outdated round on the battlefields for U.S. Army Central in the Middle East and southwestern Asia.

"Currently, the [dual-purpose improved conventional munitions] round has a higher-than-acceptable rate potential to leave duds behind," said Maj. Joshua Szafranski, an operations officer with the 197th Field Artillery Brigade.

Older models of the dual-purpose improved conventional munitions contained hundreds of smaller "cluster bomb" explosives that were often left unexploded across the battlefield, posing a danger to civilians.

Szafranski, of Hollis, Maine, said the new M30A1 round is being implemented to limit duds by replacing the smaller explosives with 180,000 tungsten steel bee-bee-sized balls. The round is expected to have applications in antiterrorism operations, such as the fight against the Islamic State known as Operation Inherent Resolve. 

"This particular round will be effective against light skinned vehicles and personnel," he explained.

The 197th Field Artillery Brigade, based in Manchester, New Hampshire, is credited as the first to test the munitions for USARCENT from a high-mobility artillery rocket system, also known as a HIMARS, at Udairi Training Range. The unit shot four separate targets with the new round during two days of tests.

During the first test-fire, the 197th FA Brigade combined with 120-millimeter mortar teams from the 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment and Cavalry Scouts in Bradley Fighting Vehicles from the 1st Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment, to simulate a scenario in which an enemy convoy is spotted and engaged. 

"It's not like you see in the movies. There is a lot of coordination that goes into this job," said Sgt. Brent Schriber, a Cavalry Scout with the 1st Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment. "You don't just roll in and blow things up. There are a lot of upper echelon tasks and things that need to be trained on to efficiently affect the fighting."

Some observers initially thought the rounds had missed because of the lack of structural damage observable from a distance. A closer examination, however, revealed the plastic range silhouettes and vehicles were pierced through from the impact of the flying tungsten projectiles.

"We successfully demonstrated what the capabilities of this new round are," Szafranski said. "A high explosive round is very impressive because it produces a [large explosion] and large pieces of shrapnel, but this round is small pellets and covers a much larger area."

Spc. Nadthapong Wuitsen, 13F forward observer, of Rochester, New Hampshire, from the 197th FA Brigade, was the first person to call in a request for the new round in the area of operations.

Forward observers are responsible for putting eyes on the target and calling up both coordinates and the type of round to be fired.

"Calling is the best part of my job because of the explosions," Wuitsen said. "Being able to call in a location and getting impact and damage on that location is pretty cool."